Gnats are tiny, non-biting insects that flourish in the summertime. Although they do not pierce the skin, they can be a nuisance to the family's best friend who does not have hands to swat them away. Deet-containing insect repellents are of concern to many pet owners for fear of harming the dog's nervous system. Pet owners, however, have taken the job of repelling insects into their own hands. Dog owners may make their own bug repellent at home by adding two or three essential oils in a 1-to-10 ratio in a dilution base of olive oil, witch hazel or vodka.
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Types of Essential Oils
Insects get used to one particular kind of oil, so make three or four different kinds or repellent, and switch them up every time the pet goes outside. You may add one or more of the following essential oils to your base oil or alcohol (all of which have been reported to repel gnats): catnip, cedarwood, citronella, cinnamon, clove, garlic oil, geranium, lemon grass, neem or peppermint oil.
Consideration: Dilute your Oils
Always dilute the essential oils before you use them on your pet's coat. Although effective, eucalyptus may be irritating on some dogs' skin. Some pet enthusiasts also recommend against using tea tree oil in any concentration as it is thought to create or worsen neurological problems in some dogs. Make sure that you store all essential oils in a dark cupboard to prevent them from degrading.
Apply the essential oil mixture to the coat of the dog, preferably in a place where he cannot lick or scratch, such as his upper back, back of ears, or even the back of the collar. You may keep the mixture in a spray bottle, but try not to apply directly to the skin, and always avoid contact with the dog's eyes. Avoid applying these to pregnant animals until you have your vet's permission. Some natural pet enthusiasts even suggest allowing the dog to sniff and approve the scent before creating the mixture, to ensure that he will approve of wearing it in the long run.
Household Products and Pre-made Repellents
Vanilla extract is reported to repel gnats. Just don't get the kind in the bakery aisle that contains sugar or corn syrup, or this will attract gnats instead of repelling them. A popular mouthwash is used as a natural insect repellent for people, but some fear that it may be too dangerous to use in pets because the oils and alcohol content may burn your skin. Likewise, a well known chest rub is sometimes used on the clothing of humans to repel insects because of its menthol content, but it is not recommended on dog's skin because the dog may try to lick it. You may purchase granulated formulations of essential oil-based repellents to use on outdoor surfaces to repel gnats as well.
Try altering the terrain in order to keep the gnat population down: reduce your watering schedule so insects like gnats and mosquitoes do not have a place to breed. Use sodium lighting which tends to attract fewer gnats than other types of lighting. Purchase a finer mesh screening for your outdoor enclosure; screens which keep out flies may not necessarily keep out gnats. Because most flying insects are attracted to the carbon dioxide in our breath, tubs of water containing dry ice may be placed at strategic corners of your yard---safely away from the children and pets---to trick the gnats into flying away from the people and dogs.
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